I have been battling a bad upper respiratory virus the past few weeks. I felt it coming on one Friday night, all scratchy throat and tired muscles.
What did I do? I just kept going, of course. We had plans Saturday after all. I just kept drinking hot tea, sucking cough drops and went to bed a little early.
The cold worsened and I began to leave out optional activities. But still I plowed ahead. During meetings I sat at a distance with a box of kleenex by my side. I refrained from giving physical adjustments to my yoga students.
But day after day I felt worse. More tired. More achy. More stuffy.
It took almost a week for me to cry uncle.
I finally called in sick when I felt so crappy I feared I might actually have the flu and didn’t know it. After all I had no fever, but I just felt so bad. After a quick call to my doctor’s office describing my symptoms, they confirmed I probably had a bad virus that was going around.
Their best advice:
Rest. And drink lots of fluids.
Yep. That was the best that modern medicine had to offer.
So you know what I did?
I laid on the sofa with my dogs and my cup of tea and watched Jane Austen movies. You know what happens when someone gets sick in Jane Austen movies? So much as a sniffle and they go to bed for like a week. No matter whose house they happen to be in at the time. (How else will one fall in love with a handsome stranger?)
I began to wonder if the Victorian English were onto something.
Of course a few days later my son fell ill as well. He ran a little fever and had the same scratchy throat and tired muscles going on.
So what did we do?
We totally rearranged our schedule as a family, let him anchor himself on the “comfy green chair” and began to serve him Powerade and jello.
For almost three days he lay on the chair in the same set of pajamas and watched Netflix with the dogs (Although he chose Cosmos and Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. over Jane Austen. Imagine that ;-)). And let me say after three days he was feeling much better than I did after two weeks.
Sometime during all the virus fighting and recovery, I began to wonder when American adults lost the art of being sick?
Are things really so stressful that we can’t take three days out of our lives to rest and recover?
Are we really so important we must keep on with our routines, all the while coughing and sneezing our germs on others instead of letting the world go on without us for a while?
What causes our inability to just let ourselves rest, be sick, and then recover?
During all my thoughtful ponderings (another benefit of having a sick day, you have time to ponder) I remembered back to my first year of working a real job.
I was 25 years old and was working as an associate pastor at a largish United Methodist Church. One Sunday morning I woke up pretty ill and called my boss to let him know I wouldn’t be at church that day. I’ll never forget his response, “I usually just take some medicine and press on.”
Right, because no one else can pray the Lord’s Prayer and give a children’s sermon quite like I can. And church members might get mad if I am not fulfilling my duties. And God wants us to suffer for the sake of the cause. Message received.
Our church office proceeded to give each other a nasty case of bronchitis that year also. Out of four ministerial staff members I think I was the only one to spend most of my illness at home. A fact that was probably made known to me as well.
Slowly as I matured in age and experience I bought the lie. Even when I was put on partial bed rest during my high risk pregnancy I would at least make it to church every Sunday. I would kick my robed legs up on a milk crate that I kept behind the pulpit so I could take some of the pressure off of my incompetent cervix and sit instead of standing during hymns.
Now I look back and wonder how my small contributions each Sunday could have been worth even the chance of putting my unborn child’s life at risk.
So what do we do with this protestant work ethic gone bad?
I don’t know about you, but I am going to try and bring back the sick day for adults. After all, it is not like I work some high profile job. I teach yoga to seniors and write for a living. My students will get over it. The internet will go on.
I know not everyone has the luxury of sick leave and that is a justice issue all unto itself.
But for those of us who have the ability to take sick leave, FOR GOODNESS SAKES, USE IT.
It will be good for you. And all those around you. You will have both the joy of being missed and the relief that you are not essential to the world’s survival.
And when you do, might I recommend spending some quality time with Netfix and some a mug of your favorite comfort drink? It will almost make being sick worthwhile.
How do you handle getting sick? What is your favorite “get better” traditions?